Vice President of Family Support Services, Square One; Age 37
Melissa Blissett brought a lot of personal items along for her 40 Under Forty photo shoot, and for a reason.
There are many things that are important to her, and she wanted to try to represent them all with one image.
She’s big into plants, and also reading. Family is a huge part of her life, and she brought along a portrait of the group, as well as a framed copy of one of her favorite quotes, and a pink elephant, which represents the sorority she belongs to — Delta Sigma Theta, an organization of college-educated women “committed to constructive development of its members and to public service, with a primary focus on the black community.”
There isn’t anything that directly represents her work as vice president of Family Support Services at Square One, but then again, all or at least most of those other items reflect what she does.
In short, her work is all about family, education, service to others, and helping others live the life they’ve always dreamed of while, as that quote goes, “remembering where you came from but never losing sight of where you are going.”
Blissett, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Lowell and a master’s degree in social work at Springfield College, told BusinessWest that while Square One is most associated with early-childhood education, the nonprofit has long understood the importance of supporting families. And it is her job to essentially coordinate and deliver that support, which comes in many forms.
“The parent is the child’s first teacher in general, so the goal is to provide educational support,” she explained. “We also want to provide and help them access resources within the community. We want to make sure that the child is safe, that the child is receiving adequate education, and that the family is getting the resources it needs to grow healthy children.”
Blissett first worked at Square One as an intern while working toward her master’s at Springfield College, and later joined the agency as Healthy Families and Supervised Visitation supervisor. She was later promoted to assistant vice president of Family Support Services and is now vice president of that department.
She is also an adjunct professor at Springfield College in the graduate department of Social Work and, as noted, very active with Delta Sigma Theta. She is also active at her church, Shiloh Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Springfield.
— George O’Brien